Harvesting rootstock trees

Back in August 2018 we tried an experiment to grow our own rootstock trees, in a technique called a stool bed, and the results are out – we’ve just done our first harvest!

Merv harvesting apple trees from Carr's Organic Fruit Tree Nursery stool bed
Merv harvesting apple trees from Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery stool bed

So, did it work?

Well, yes and no.  We have two different sorts of trees in the bed. The first is a semi-dwarfing apple, and they worked fantastically well. We planted just 10 rootstocks of a semi-dwarfing variety called MM102 – we think they’ll perfectly suit our customers.

From the initial 10 we layered into the stoolbed trench, we harvested more than 60 trees! And that’s just year 1. We fully expect to get more than that next year.

Apple rootstocks with lots of roots being heeled in
Apple rootstocks with lots of roots being heeled in

The other rootstock in the stoolbed are cherries, which are notoriously hard to grow from either seed or cutting, so stoolbeds are the traditional way of growing them.

An unsuccessful cherry rootstock from the stoolbed
An unsuccessful cherry rootstock from the stoolbed

We started last August by layering 20 cherry Mazzard rootstock trees, and while we also harvested more than 60 of these, they were much less successful, particularly in the root department.

For some (as yet unknown) reason, root development was very slow. Some trees had enough roots that we’re confident they’ll grow well, but some trees only had a couple of roots, and some had none at all!

Lots of the rootstock trees grew over-large, which makes harvesting them extremely difficult – if we didn’t have Merv’s expertise with his secateurs we would have struggled to get them out of the ground at all!

This excessive vigour is also possibly one of the reasons that roots failed to develop on some of the trees, as it seemed to be more of a problem on the larger trees.

Fingers crossed that next year’s crop of trees is smaller, and much rootier!

Really year 1 for the nursery?

Collecting quince seed from organic quinces
Collecting quince seed from organic quinces

This time of year we’re twiddling our thumbs waiting for the leaves to drop off the nursery trees so that we can dig them up for people’s bare rooted orders and move them around to make way for new areas of nursery.

Pear seed is stored in sand before planting
Pear seed is stored in sand before planting

We are also collecting and cleaning seed for apple, quince, pear and peach rootstock.

Apples that have been crushed to harvest the seeds
Apples that have been crushed to harvest the seeds

It’s nearly time to collect our plum cuttings which will become next years budding rootstock and we are also beginning to diligently collect and label our scion wood. This is the pieces of first year growth off the varieties of trees that we want to propagate. We store the scions in the fridge until spring when we use it to graft onto our rootstock in the nursery.

Plum cuttings
Plum cuttings

Foremost in our minds at this time of year however is our organic bare rooted fruit tree orders. These orders close this Sunday, June 30.

You might have bought trees from us before … and therefore be wondering why we’ve been saying it’s our first year of operation?

Previously, Katie and Hugh sold trees through Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens. Most of the trees came from a wholesale nursery, supplemented by a few trees from their own nursery (which were left over from what they’d grown to plant in their own orchard).

Then, they finished re-planting the orchard, leased it to Ant (Tellurian Fruit Gardens), and started the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op (HOFC).

But, we didn’t want to stop growing fruit trees on the farm.

Why?

Because we (Sas and Katie) want to learn as much as we can from our resident master-nurseryman Merv Carr (Katie’s dad), we want to preserve heritage varieties by propagating them, and we want to help as many people as we can grow their own food.

So, Katie and Sas joined forces to start Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery (named after Merv), and joined HOFC.

Joining the co-op has meant that we’ve also been able to get organic certification for the nursery – in what we think is a Victorian first!

We’ve still got a fairly limited range of organic trees (and quite a few have already sold out, like our multigraft trees), but as our skills expand we’re aiming for the range of trees we sell to expand as well.

In the meantime, we’re supplementing our offering with non-organic trees from our wholesaler – our trees are clearly labelled (organic) on the website so you can tell the difference.

Hopefully that explains the whole picture – get in touch here if you have any questions at all, and jump on the website here to see what’s available and order your trees by June 30.

Cheers,


Katie, Sas and Merv

Tree sales are go!

The season is turning and our beautiful fruit trees are starting to lose their leaves and go dormant for the winter. Katie and Merv have been out amongst them, counting up how many trees of what variety are a good size to sell and loading the information onto the website ready for sale.

We’ve got loads of different varieties of nectarine, peach, cherry, apple, pear, plum and apricots available.

We even have the first of our unique multigrafted trees with up to 4 varieties of fruit on the one tree!! Perfect for people with limited space for growing who want to get the maximum amount of variety in their home-grown-fruit bowl!

If you want to order one of our organic bare-rooted fruit trees, go to the website here:

https://www.mafg.com.au/trees

…and scroll to the bottom of the page to click on the type of fruit tree you’re looking for.

Orders close June 30, 2019.

We are the only certified organic fruit trees nursery in Australia (that we know of) and since it is also our first year selling our trees, we will also supplement the trees we’ve grown ourselves with wholesale trees from another nursery who also specialise in heritage varieties. When you’re ordering, the trees from our nursery have “(organic)” in the name; the trees we buy from an external nursery do not.

You’ll then be able to pick-up your trees from the farm on the weekend of July 13 and 14, between 10 am and 4 pm.

We will also have a Nursery Open Day on Sunday 21 July for a final sale of any trees that weren’t sold in the first round. 

Another big announcement is that we finally have a logo for Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery!! After much deliberation, debate and fine tweaking over co-op morning tea, we decided to go with this logo that has a hand-drawn image of Merv’s grafting knife at the top of it.

We debated whether anyone would know what a grafting knife is, and whether we should just go with some sort of generic image of a tree, like a million other businesses have. In the end we decided that the knife (even if no one knows what it is) really says more about the nursery and its history. Merv has had this knife for 65 years, since he first started studying horticulture at Burnley College as a 17 year old.

The knife has had so much use over the years that the blade has worn down to almost a sliver, but it still gets pulled out and sharpened for budding every February. It represents the knowledge of an old skill that is being passed down from Merv to Katie and me.

The clincher too is that inscribed on the butt of the blade, and still visible, are the words ‘Oil the Joints’. Poignant.